ICE’s are not dead in China: Hongqi HS3 SUV hit the market for 20,300 USD

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On June 17, Hongqi launched the HS3 entry-level SUV in China. The new car offers 4 trims with a price range of 145,800 – 195,800 yuan (20,300 – 27,300 USD). HS3 adopts Hongqi’s new design language and is positioned as a compact SUV.

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HS3 comes in ICE and a mild-hybrid version (so basically only ICE). The drive train of the ICE variant is a 1.5L turbo and 7-speed DMT gearbox. The mild-hybrid adds a 2.0L turbo +8AT variant. The maximum power is 185 kW for the top trim AWD version, the maximum speed is 220 km/h, and acceleration 0-100km/h is 6.9 seconds. The engine is CA4GC20TD-35 from FAW. The base trim level has a 124 kW motor, a top speed of 195 km/h, and an acceleration of 9.9 seconds.

Trim namePrice [yuan]
1.5T Brave Edition145,800
1.5T Kindness Edition159,800
2.0T Edition172,800
2.0T AWD195,800
Hongqi HS3 at dealer

The dimensions are 4655/1900/1668mm (L/W/H), respectively, and the wheelbase is 2770mm. The wheel size is 235/60 R18. The design of the headlights is pretty attractive – this kind of split lights thing is now pretty popular in China; see the 2023 BYD Seal, for example.

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Inside the car, you find two LCD screens – 12.3″ for the instrument panel and 12.6″ for the central control screen. Looking at the massive LCD bezels, which look like something from 10 years ago, you feel that Hongqi is a pure legacy trying its best to adapt to the digital world.

LCD with massive bezels

Hongqi is a luxury brand under the state-owned FAW. It is also nicknamed Chinese Lincoln as it is a government-favored brand with target customers being diplomats, government officials, and wealthy businessmen.

It was established in 1959, and rumors say it was Mao’s favorite drive. We can’t verify that, but Hongqi, which means ‘red flag’ in Chinese, is positioning itself as a patriotic brand, and some of its models in the 00s and 10s had its name written in Mao’s handwriting on the rear of the car.

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There are many changes in Hongqi. The company is trying to adapt to the EV revolution in China, new strict 6b emission standard norms, and the ongoing price war simultaneously. It’s definitely not a good time to sell massive ICE limousines and SUVs in China today. So here comes HS3, an entry-level SUV aimed at young folks. Hongqi claims the target audience is Generation Z.

And that might work actually, as not everyone is ready for EV adoption in China, especially not in tier 3 and tier 4 cities and rural areas. Also, the older Chinese generation still sees the German automakers as synonymous with quality and luxury, not being big fans of China-made products in this segment. However, that is not the case for the young generation, who prefer Chinese brands even in the luxurious segment. This sentiment almost didn’t exist just 20 years ago.

Young people and HS3.

Moreover, Hongqi knows that affordable ICEs would only help them in the short term, as China plans to ban sales of more than NEVs since 2035. NEV means New Energy Vehicle and is a Chinese term for EV, PHEV, and FCEV (hydrogen). So they are going electric.

Hongqi introduced the first two models at Shanghai Auto in April under its new sub-brand, Hongqi New Energy. The E202 SUV and E001 sedan were based on an 800V EV-dedicated FME platform. E001 will also support battery swap and offer an 800 km CLTC range.

Despite being a patriotic Chinese brand, Hongqi has global plans. In January, they announced it would enter Germany, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, and France with its NEV subbrand. Hongqi already sells its electric limousine HS9 in Norway and the Netherlands without much success. Yet.

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